“Be careful,” he said quietly.
“You too.” I gave his hand a squeeze before turning to take off down the street behind Riley.
There were only two shuttles in my line of sight, and Reboots ran past me on all sides with weapons. One of the shuttles hovered over a clump of houses at the other side of the street, firing until they were nothing but a pile of rubble.
Riley made it to the shuttles in front of the schoolhouse first, and threw a handgun and giant knife in my direction, along with a helmet. “There’s not much left!” he yelled as he slipped a gun into his own pocket.
“This is fine,” I called over my shoulder as I plopped the helmet on my head and bolted down the street. The roar of motorcycles made me turn, and I spotted Micah, Kyle, and Jules speeding past on their way to the heart of the slums. About ten or fifteen other reservation Reboots dashed in the opposite direction, guns raised.
I broke into a run. Riley and a few other Reboots pounded the dirt behind me as I sprinted after Micah. The shuttle I’d seen earlier began to spin erratically and plummeted to the ground with a loud bang.
The grocery store and the other shops made up the center of the Austin slums, and as I approached the wooden buildings I saw smoke billowing from several of them. I darted in between two shops and came out on the wide, dirt road that ran through the center of town.
Micah stood a few yards away, legs on either side of his motorcycle as he aimed a rocket launcher at a nearby store. He whooped and glanced behind him, doing a quick double take when he caught sight of me. He quickly masked his surprise with a wide smirk that looked anything but happy.
He kicked the stand on the motorcycle and hopped off. “Wren! Nice to see you again. How’d the bounty hunters treat you?”
I reached for my gun, even though we were both wearing helmets. I had no interest in anymore chitchat with him. He grabbed his own gun, and I fired off a quick shot to his hand. The gun flew through the air and landed a few feet away. I aimed again as Micah charged me, and I squeezed off the next one too quickly. The bullet sailed past his ear as he tackled me.
We hit the ground together, the gun falling from my hand in the scuffle. Micah tried to wrap his fingers around my throat and I kicked him off before scurrying through the dirt and hopping to my feet.
His eyes were furious as he stood, his mouth set in a hard line. He rushed at me again and I slammed my foot into his knee. With a gasp he stumbled back, and I punched him across the jaw.
He retaliated so quickly I didn’t know he was swinging until the punch hit my stomach, and then my cheek. I wheezed as I ducked his next punch, slamming both my fists into his chest.
He hit the ground with a grunt. “You should be ashamed,” he said as he hopped up on one leg.
“About which part? I’m not the one who pushed a couple Reboots out of an airborne shuttle.”
“No, you’re the one who ensured we’re going extinct.”
I laughed as I inched my fingers closer to the knife hanging off my belt. “I’d say you’re the one killing us. Hundreds of Reboots in the facilities were killed because of you.”
His eyes narrowed, his fingers balling into fists. He screamed as he ran for me, limping on his left leg.
I pulled the knife from my pants. Swung it through the air.
Micah’s body crumpled to the ground. His head rolled off in the opposite direction.
I winced as I turned away, wiping the bloody blade on my pants. Riley stood over another dead Reboot body a block or so away, and he raised his arms like, “Victory!”
It didn’t feel like a victory. Callum had said once it was only appropriate to kill someone in self-defense, which this had been, but it still made me feel uncomfortable in a new, unwelcome way.
I slipped the knife back in my pocket and picked up both guns off the ground. With a sigh, I headed in the direction of gunfire.
There wasn’t much left of Austin an hour or so later. Homes all around me were destroyed. I was still on the wide road in the middle of town, and the shops and apartment buildings had huge holes in them.
I holstered my gun as I watched Riley and Addie drag Micah’s body into the pile we’d made. Burying Micah and his crew was impractical, so we’d decided to get them all together to transfer them to the edge of town for cremation.
Riley sighed, wiping a dirty hand across his forehead. It was late, the sky was black, and my body felt heavy and tired. The bodies had all been cleared and piled up, and when Addie said she was going to Tony’s house, we followed.
The roads were filled with humans, all headed in the direction of the schoolhouse. One glanced at me and I braced myself for a yell, or a glare, but one side of his mouth lifted in a smile. I blinked in surprise and turned a confused look at Riley and Addie, but a tall figure at the end of the street caught my eye.
I quickened my step and Callum’s face lit up when he saw me. A young boy was on his back, his arms wrapped around Callum’s neck.
“Hey,” Callum said, reaching for me. He leaned down for a kiss. “Everything okay?”
I nodded, glancing at the trail of humans behind him and the boy on his back. “Who is this?”
“I don’t know. I pulled him out of the rubble but he won’t talk.”
The boy frowned at me and buried his head in Callum’s shoulder.
“I’m going to the schoolhouse to see if anyone knows him. A lot of the humans are gathering there for the night. Come with me?”
I nodded and wiped a streak of dirt off his forehead. He was covered in dust, from his neck down to his pants, which had two huge holes in the knees.
“Is your brother okay?” I asked.
“Yeah. The other side of town wasn’t hit as hard, so he went back home. He was good. Helped me sort through the rubble of a lot of houses and get people out.”
I ran a hand down his arm and we turned to head toward the schoolhouse. Humans were spilled out onto the front lawn, and a woman shot across the dirt as soon as she spotted us, making some sort of weird, strangled noise that made me want to take a step back.
Callum knelt down, sliding the boy off his back and the woman whisked him into her arms, crying as she kissed his cheeks.
“Thank you, thank you,” she said, grabbing Callum. She hugged him with one arm, blubbering something I couldn’t understand.
“You’re welcome,” Callum said hesitantly, shooting me a baffled look as she released him.
Tony was across the lawn next. He grabbed Callum and wrapped his arms around him. He thanked him, his voice cracking slightly, and turned to quickly walk away.